What Is Pneumonia                              Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lung. It can be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Pneumonia causes inflammation in your lung’s air sacs, or alveoli. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.

Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening. The severity of your pneumonia usually depends on:

  • the cause of your inflammation
  • the type of organism causing your infection
  • your age
  • your general health

Keep reading to learn about what causes pneumonia as well as its symptoms. You should call your doctor if you have any concerns. Severe pneumonia is a medical emergency.

 Types and Causes of PneumoniaBacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia can affect anyone at any age. It can develop on its own or after a 

There are five major types of pneumonia. They are:

serious cold or flu. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial pneumonia can also be caused byChlamydophila pneumonia or Legionella pneumophilaPneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is sometimes seen in those who have weak immune systems due to illnesses like AIDS or cancer.

Viral Pneumonia

In most cases, respiratory viruses can cause pneumonia, especially in young children and the elderly. Pneumonia is usually not serious and lasts a short time. However, the flu virus can cause viral pneumonia to be severe or fatal. It’s especially harmful to pregnant women or individuals with heart or lung issues. Invading bacteria can cause complications with viral pneumonia.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia

Mycoplasma organisms are not viruses or bacteria, but they have traits common to both. They are the smallest agents of disease that affect humans. Mycoplasmas generally cause mild cases of pneumonia, most often in older children and young adults.

Other Types of Pneumonia

Many additional types of pneumonia affect immune-compromised individuals. Tuberculosis and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) generally affect people with suppressed immune systems, such as those who have AIDS. In fact, PCP can be one of the first signs of illness in people with AIDS.

Less common types of pneumonia can also be serious. Pneumonia can be caused by inhaling food, dust, liquid, or gas, as well as by various fungi.

Part 3 of 7: Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk for Developing Pneumonia?

No one is immune to pneumonia, but there are certain factors that can raise your risks:

  • People who have had a stroke, have problems swallowing, or are bedridden can easily develop pneumonia.
  • Infants from birth to age two are at risk for pneumonia, as are individuals age 65 or older.
  • People with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of pneumonia. This includes people who take medications that weaken the immune system, such as steroids and certain medications for cancer, and people with HIV, AIDS, or cancer.
  • Drug abuse increases risk. This includes excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
  • Certain medical conditions raise your risks for pneumonia. These conditions include asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and heart failure.

Part 4 of 7: Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

The general symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop quickly and may include:

  • chest pain
  • shaking chills
  • fever
  • dry cough
  • wheezing
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing

Some symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms:

  • skin with bluish tone (from lack of oxygen)
  • blood in sputum (coughed-up mucus)
  • labored breathing
  • high fever (102.5°F or higher)
  • confusion
  • rapid heartbeat

Part 5 of 7: Diagnosis

How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?

Pneumonia can be easily overlooked as the cause of an illness because it often resembles a cold or the flu. However, it usually lasts longer and symptoms seem more severe than these other conditions.

Detailed Patient History

To determine whether or not you have pneumonia, your doctors will usually inquire about your signs and symptoms. Questions they may ask include:

  • What are your symptoms and when did they begin?
  • What were your recent travels and activities?
  • What was your recent exposure to animals?
  • What was your recent exposure to individuals who are sick?
  • What are your past and current medical issues?
  • What medications are you currently taking?
  • What is your smoking history?
  • Have you recently had any vaccinations or illnesses?

Physical Exam

Crackling and bubbling sounds in the chest during inhalation are usually indicators of pneumonia. Wheezing may also be present. Your doctor may also have trouble hearing normal breathing sounds in different areas of your chest.

Diagnostic Tests

Chest X-rays can be used to determine if infection is present in your lungs. However, chest X-rays won’t show your type of pneumonia. Blood tests can provide a better picture of the type of pneumonia. Also, blood tests are necessary to see if the infection is in your bloodstream.

Other Tests

The following are additional tests that may be required:

  • A CT scan of the chest is similar to an X-ray, but the pictures provided by this method are highly detailed. This painless test provides a clear and precise picture of the chest and lungs.
  • This sputum test involves examining the sputum (the mucus you cough up) to determine what type of pneumonia is present.
  • If there is fluid apparent in the pleural space (the space between the tissue that covers the outside of your lungs and the inside of your chest cavity), a fluid sample can be taken to help determine if the pneumonia is bacterial or viral.
  • A pulse oximetry test measures the level of oxygen blood saturation by attaching a small sensor to your finger. Pneumonia can prevent normal oxygenation of the blood.
  • When antibiotics fail, a bronchoscopy can be used to view the airways inside the lungs to determine if blocked airways are contributing to the pneumonia.

Pneumonia Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Anyone can get pneumonia. It’s commonly a complication of a respiratory infection—especially the flu—but there are more than 30 different causes of the illness. Older adults, children and people with chronic disease, including COPD and asthma, are at high risk for pneumonia.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Pneumonia symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of pneumonia you have, your age and health.
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:

  • Cough (with some pneumonias you may cough up greenish or yellow mucus, or even bloody mucus)
  • Fever, which may be mild or high
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath, which may only occur when you climb stairs

Additional symptoms include:

  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating and clammy skin
  • Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
  • Confusion, especially in older people

Symptoms also can vary, depending on whether your pneumonia is bacterial or viral.

  • In bacterial pneumonia, your temperature may rise as high as 105 degrees F. This pneumonia causes profuse sweating, and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient’s mental state may be confused or delirious.
  • The initial symptoms of viral pneumonia are the same as influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within 12 to 36 hours, there is increasing breathlessness; the cough becomes worse and produces a small amount of mucus. There is a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Many different germs can cause pneumonia. There are five main causes of pneumonia:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Mycoplasmas
  • Other infectious agents, such as fungi
  • Various chemicals

If you have viral pneumonia, you also are at risk of getting bacterial pneumonia.
Understanding the cause of pneumonia is important because pneumonia treatment depends on its cause. Learn more about what causes pneumonia.

What Are Risk Factors?

Anyone can get pneumonia, but some people are at a higher risk than others.
Risk factors (that increase your chances of getting pneumonia) include:

    • Cigarette smoking
    • Recent viral respiratory infection—a cold, laryngitis, influenza, etc.
    • Difficulty swallowing (due to stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or other neurological conditions)
    • Chronic lung disease such as COPDbronchiectasis, or cystic fibrosis
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, liver cirrhosis, or diabetes
    • Living in a nursing facility
    • Impaired consciousness (loss of brain function due to dementia, stroke, or other neurologic conditions)
    • Recent surgery or trauma
    • Having a weakened immune system due to illness, certain medications, and autoimmune disorders

How Is Pneumonia Treated?

The type of treatment prescribed for pneumonia mostly depends on what type of pneumonia is present, as well as how severe it is. In many cases, pneumonia can be treated at home.

General Treatment

The typical treatment plan for pneumonia includes taking all prescribed medications and participating in follow-up care. A chest X-ray may be ordered to make sure your pneumonia has been successfully treated.

Treating Bacterial Pneumonia

Antibiotics are used to treat this type of pneumonia. Antibiotics should be taken as directed. If you stop taking the antibiotics before treatment is complete, the pneumonia may return. Most people will improve after one to three days of treatment.

Treating Viral Pneumonia

Antibiotics are useless if a virus is the cause of pneumonia. However, certain antiviral drugs can help treat the condition. Symptoms usually clear within one to three weeks.

Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?

Anyone with diabetes, asthma, and other severe or chronic health problems is at risk for pneumonia. However, in many cases, it can be prevented with vaccines against bacterial pneumonia and flu. Quitting smoking will definitely lower your risk of pneumonia.

Get Vaccinated

  • Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, so preventing the flu is a good way to prevent pneumonia.
  • Children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older should get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, a common form of bacterial pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions. There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if one of them is right for you.
  • There are several other vaccines that can prevent infections by bacteria and viruses that may lead to pneumonia, including pertussis, chicken pox and measles. Please talk to your doctor about whether you and your children are up to date on your vaccines and to determine if any of these vaccines are appropriate for you.

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering, and before eating or preparing foods.

Don’t Smoke

Tobacco damages your lung’s ability to fight off infection, and smokers have been found to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia. Smokers are considered one of the high risk groups that are encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine.

Be Aware of Your General Health

  • Since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, be aware of any symptoms that linger more than a few days.
  • Good health habits—a healthy diet, rest, regular exercise, etc.—help you from getting sick from viruses and respiratory illnesses. They also help promote fast recovery when you do get a cold, the flu or other respiratory illness.

If you have children, talk to their doctor about:

  • Hib vaccine, which prevents pneumonia in children from Haemophilus influenza type b
  • A drug called Synagis (palivizumab), which is given to some children younger than 24 months to prevent pneumonia caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

If you have cancer or HIV, talk to your doctor about additional ways to prevent pneumonia and other infections.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is calledpneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and it is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax.

The pneumococcal vaccine prevents serious bloodbrain, and lunginfections from the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Such infections are called pneumococcal disease — they also include pneumonia,meningitis, and septicemia.

Pneumococcal disease is a serious health threat that can lead to death. Many strains of Streptococcus pneumonia are resistant to antibiotics. Infection with the bacteria is a leading cause of serious illness in adults and children worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more people die from pneumococcal disease each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and it is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax. PPSV23 is made using dead bacteria. The dead germs cannot make you sick.

The other is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13 (brand namePrevnar 13), which is routinely given to infants and toddlers, but was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults ages 50 and older. It protects against up to 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.


When Should Adults Get a Pneumococcal Vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time of the year. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) is recommended for the following adults:

  • Adults ages 19 to 64 with certain medical conditions (for example, certain kidney diseases, cigarette smokingasthma, chronic heart orlung disease, asplenia, and conditions that cause weakening of the immune system) should receive one or two doses of PPSV23 given five years apart.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is recommended for the following adults:

  • Adults ages 19 and older with asplenia, sickle cell disease, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, cochlear implants, or conditions that cause weakening of the immune system.

It’s now recommended that adults ages 65 and older get both vaccines. Adults age 65 or older who are need to get both should get the PCV13 vaccine first, followed by PPSV23 6 to 12 months later. If an adult was already vaccinated with PPSV23, he or she should receive the PCV13 vaccine a year or more later.


Who Needs a Booster Shot of the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

Some people may need a booster shot after 5 years. The doctor will recommend a second dose of PPSV23 if you are an adult between ages 19 and 64 who has:

Adults over age 65 who received PPSV23 before age 65 also need a booster shot if it has been more than 5 years since being vaccinated.

Who Should Not Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

You should NOT get the PPSV23 or the PCV13 vaccine if you have had:

If you are moderately to severely ill, your doctor may recommend waiting to get the shot until after you recover. The CDC says you can still get the vaccines if you have a mild illness, such as a cold or low-grade fever.

It is not known whether the PPSV23 and PCV13 vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy; there have been no reports of harm to babies whose mothers received the vaccine before realizing they were pregnant. Pregnant women should only receive these vaccinations if they are clearly needed.

What Are the Side Effects and Risks of the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

Like all vaccines, both PPSV23 and PCV13 can have side effects. But the risk of harm or death from either is extremely rare.

Reported side effects are similar for both vaccines. Some people may have mild swelling, redness, and soreness where the shot was given. This goes away in a few days.

Less than 1% of people who receive these vaccines may have:

  • Fever
  • More severe swelling, pain, or redness where the shot was given
  • Muscle aches

Rarely, someone may have a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccines. Most of the time, such reactions occur within a few minutes of receiving a pneumococcal vaccine. The following can be signs of a severe allergic reaction:



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